Even after admitting just how toxic politically for the Republicans Paul Ryan's budget plan is and how extremely unpopular making any cuts to Medicare is with voters on all sides of the aisle, David Brooks still insists on calling Ryan "brave."
April 23, 2011

Even after admitting just how toxic politically for the Republicans Paul Ryan's budget plan is and how extremely unpopular making any cuts to Medicare is with voters on all sides of the aisle, David Brooks still insists on calling Ryan "brave."

Sorry David, but refusing to ask the rich to pay more in taxes, giving them another tax break they don't need, and balancing the budget off of the backs of the poor and the middle class is not "brave", "sort of brave" or anything resembling it.

Standing up to the insurance industries and demanding that we get a single-payer system where we're all in the same pool as these seniors -- now that would be brave.

Transcript via PBS:

JIM LEHRER: Has the president gotten any traction, do you think, Mark, on his -- going after the Republicans on the grounds of lowering taxes for the rich and fooling with Medicare?

MARK SHIELDS: I think -- I think this is potentially a game-changer.

JIM LEHRER: For him.

MARK SHIELDS: For him. I really do.

I think the -- David and I can argue about the policy, which I think is morally weak on the Ryan plan and puts those most vulnerable at most risk but you can't argue about the politics. The politics of it are terrible. They have given the Democrats an incredible opening.

The Democrats were reeling, have been on the defensive politically. And you talk about the town meetings that Republican congressmen are having during this congressional break. They are on the defensive, saying, no, I'm not going to abolish Medicare. I'm not going to dismantle it.

They have given an incredible opening to the Democrats to change the conversation, to put the president and the Democrats on the offensive.

JIM LEHRER: Do you think they are changing the conversation?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I mean, they knew they would open -- be creating an opening. I mean, they walked into this with their eyes wide open.

JIM LEHRER: The Republicans knew it, right.

DAVID BROOKS: I mean, they can read the polls like anybody else.


DAVID BROOKS: And raising taxes on the rich is popular. Cutting defense spending is pretty popular. Cutting -- any -- changing Medicare in any way, shape or form is extremely unpopular, including with Republicans.

And, so, they knew they were walking into it. That is why I think it was sort of brave of them to do this, because they do point to an elemental reality, that it's -- we can't balance the budget just by raising taxes on the rich and cutting defense spending. You have to touch the middle class and you have to touch seniors.

And so I agree with Mark on the politics. And I -- last week, I called the election for Obama on the basis of that.

JIM LEHRER: You did. I remember that. I remember that.

DAVID BROOKS: I'm already regretting that, of course, by the way.

MARK SHIELDS: This week, he is calling it -- this week, he is calling it for Mitt Romney.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It is going to be Mitt Romney.



DAVID BROOKS: No, but, you know, I overstated it, but it is definitely an advantage that the Democrats are happy to walk into.


MARK SHIELDS: Republicans have done this. They did it in 1985 after -- I mean, 2005, after George W. Bush's re-election, they came out with the privatization of -- in Social Security.

JIM LEHRER: Social Security.

MARK SHIELDS: In 1995, with Newt Gingrich and the new Congress, they were going to cut Medicare spending. In 1985, with a Republican Senate, they wanted to cut the COLA, the COLA increase.

I mean, they want to go after the social programs. And each time, they take this election win as a mandate to do it, and they end up...

DAVID BROOKS: Well, but I can say, on the substance, they are right each time. I mean...

JIM LEHRER: You think it is courageous to do that?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I mean, as I said, your average Medicare enrollee, average income, making I don't know what it is, $50,000 a year, is paying in $145,000 over the lifetime into the system, taking out $450,000.

Well, there is a big gap there. And that is unsustainable. And so the $450,000 has to be brought down over time. And they are absolutely right to try to bring it down. It just happens to be extremely unpopular to try to talk about that.

MARK SHIELDS: I just think there is a moral test to every budget. And when you are doing it, those who are suffering the most are those who don't have a voice at the table, I mean and they really don't have a place at the table.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, that's our grandchildren.

MARK SHIELDS: It's our grandchildren. It's the poor. It's the unemployed. It's the jobless. It's the homeless. I mean, these people...

JIM LEHRER: And that is the Democratic message, right?

MARK SHIELDS: But they're not even -- they're not even -- well, the Democrats haven't been particularly solicitous or championing of them either.

But I mean, the Republicans just kind of write them off like they are not existing.

DAVID BROOKS: One rabid point, who is taking money away from the homeless, programs for the homeless? It is Medicare. That is what is taking money. That is what squeezing all these other programs.

MARK SHIELDS: No, no, not when you're talking about making Medicaid into a private...

JIM LEHRER: Goodbye. Goodbye.


JIM LEHRER: Nice talking to you all.

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